When Jo Davenport looks at the landscape, she paints what she wants to see.
But the Albury-based artist, who has always enjoyed a close affinity with the land, never imagined her creative vision might be shared in paddocks across the countryside.
Jo admits she was initially a little uncertain about her role in a unique project aimed at celebrating the work of regenerative farmers in southern NSW.
Earth Canvas, the brainchild of Wymah farmer Gillian Sanbrook, connected six artists with six farmers between the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers with the aim of bringing to life their work through an artist's palette.
After the first workshop at Gillian's Bibbaringa property, Jo was captivated.
She realised regenerative farming is essentially about looking after the land - here, indeed, was something she could relate to.
Jo was matched with Nick and Dea Austin, of Mundarlo, a 1450-hectare property on the Murrumbidgee River between Wagga and Gundagai.
The property was traditionally a mixed enterprise but for the past eight years has run only beef cattle and has been holistically managed since 2010.
Jo says her on-farm visit was an "amazing experience".
"Nick and Dea showed me the more wonderful spots on the property; we hopped in the four-wheel-drive and headed over the paddocks," she says.
"There was one incredible place - it was a rocky outcrop with ancient granite boulders overlooking the river.
"Even as we approached, I could feel the tingles shift up my spine.
"You could tell this was a special place."
Jo spent the day drawing and "soaking in the history".
"You could see upstream and downstream; it was quite different," she says.
"My mind did go back to the terrible fish kills further downstream ...
"(And I thought) we can't let these beautiful landscapes be taken from us."
Jo says she discovered wondrous parallels between her work as an artist and the vision of regenerative farmers like Nick and Dea.
The Austins describe their focus as being on "healthy people, a healthy landscape and a healthy bank balance".
"Nick, who studied to be an engineer, had not intended to go back to the farm but he met Dea, and the rest is history," Jo laughs.
"Nick explained engineers do things in a precise way but as a farmer he has had to learn to let go - that you can't impose your will on nature.
"As an artist you have to do that too; it is in the doing that we learn about things and the possibilities open up to us."
Gerogery beef producers Ian and Jill Coghlan were awakened to the possibilities of regenerative farming three years ago.
The Coghlans run a red poll and shorthorn cattle stud at their 200-hectare property, Eurimbla, at the base of the Table Top ranges.
By reducing paddocks from 16 hectares to about 4 hectares and moving one large mob (predominantly) daily, they have seen a better recovery of the farm landscape while maintaining stock numbers in drought.
They are "conscious" of planting trees yearly and are trialling a new way of regenerating pastures with a multi-species pasture cropping program.
Ian says the couple has always appreciated the "natural aesthetics of our property" - from the rocky outcrops to the wildlife and old, established trees.
They see regenerative farming as "not so much about what can be produced from the land as how we care for it" - and the two are not mutually exclusive.
In hosting Sydney-based painter Idris Murphy and his wife for a week as part of Earth Canvas, the Coghlans saw the beauty of their landscape through fresh eyes.
"Idris set up his studio in our historic corrugated iron cottage that looks east to the Table Top mountains," Ian recalls.
"He lit the old wood stove and sat there on the big dam bank for days and painted beautiful landscapes.
"Often late in the day we would chat with him at the cottage and he would point out the colours, shapes and tones he was seeing.
"It was lovely to be with them and we had wonderful discussions."
The artist was equally captivated by his farm visit with myriad Facebook posts extolling the virtues of regnerative farming and the value of "caring for our land".
Jill says it has become clear that through this collaboration they are part of something special.
"I think this project will bring a greater awareness of caring for the land," Jill muses.
"As farmers we understand our farm and our livestock.
"The beauty of having these artists come on to our properties is that they see so much more to the landscape."
The results of the artists' vision splendid will be showcased at on-farm open days later this year (including at Gillian Sanbrook's Bibbaringa property with artist John Wolseley on November 9 and at Eurimbla on November 10).
Local communities will have the chance to share in the knowledge and experience of the artist and farmer as they discuss the land that inspired the artistic vision.
Jo says the National Art Gallery of Australia has shown great interest in the project and intends to curate and travel the Earth Canvas Exhibition of works by the artists.
In addition to painting for the Earth Canvas exhibition and farm open days, the artist's Red Sky in the Morning series will be shown at Arthouse Gallery Sydney from October 17 to November 2.
The work is a "lament on our current relationship with the environment that sustains us all - a desire to stand back from Mother Nature and empower her, unimpeded from human intervention".
Jo believes at the heart of Earth Canvas is a wider message that we all need to "be kinder to our earth again".
"If everybody just looked after their little plot, we would be right," she says.
As an avid gardener herself, Jo says there are many similarities with farming.
"As a gardener you learn that the first thing is not to plant and get things up; it's about improving the soil," she says.
"A farm is not unlike a garden - you've got to give back as much as you take."
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